When’s the last time you talked to your employees about how they feel about working for you? If you answered “Never” or “I can’t remember”, this is for you. I want you to think about how happy your team is to be working with you, and how their general attitude affects your business – profit margins and otherwise.
What is Employee Engagement?
Employee engagement isn’t a measure of satisfaction, which only tells you how content your employees are. Engagement on the other hand, is a measure of their emotional commitment, their motivation, and their level of involvement in their position with your company. Gallup reports that in 2015, only 32% of employees in the U.S. are engaged, a number that has stayed relatively consistent since 2000. Half of employees were “not engaged” and 17.2% were “actively disengaged.”
What’s the difference between someone who is “not engaged” and someone who is “actively disengaged”?
The “not engaged” staff members are the ones who are basically checked out from their jobs. They’re getting through their workday, putting in their time, but not their passion or their energy. The “actively disengaged” are more than just unhappy at work. They’re the ones who are actively acting out of unhappiness – undermining the efforts their engaged counterparts are working to achieve every day.
Signs of Engaged Employees
Engaged employees show enthusiasm, motivation, and confidence. They are inspired by their managers and empowered to do their work in the way that works best for them. They are willing to work together to get the job done, no matter what it is – helping each other as necessary for the greater goal, and they do it without gossiping, making excuses, lying, or complaining, you’ve got one heck of a team!
Signs of Disengagement
Not sure whether your staff is engaged or disengaged? There are lots of signs your team isn’t as engaged as they could be, though some are subtler than others. If you notice there’s a lot of complaining and gossip, or there’s one employee in particular who always seems less than enthused when there’s a new task or project, that’s definitely a disengaged employee. If the team member doesn’t want to help anyone else on their team, or insists upon working alone, then this is a problem. Ultimately, they do not support a healthy, good, company culture.
Causes of Disengagement
Many things can cause an employee to disengage from their job, and unfortunately, all it takes is a single incident. Some of the issues contributing to disengagement include:
- Unhappy with the relationship with direct management – this is the number one reported cause of employee disengagement with 75% of employees saying the worst part of their job is their boss. 33% of employees are willing to skip a pay raise if it meant their boss were to be fired.
- Lack of confidence in senior management
- Being overworked
- Being underpaid
- Work keeps them stressed – 83% employees report being stressed at work.
How Disengaged Employees Hurt Your Business
Disengaged workers are more likely to call in sick and to quit their job. In fact, statistics show companies lose $11 billion a year as a result of employee turnover. Not only this, but when they are working for you, they’re not productive. They’re likely getting the absolute bare minimum done, costing you more money than just payroll expenses. Overall, that lost productivity costs the U.S. economy between $450 and $550 billion a year.
If you’ve got disengaged employees directly interfacing with your customers, your customer service is suffering, too. More than half of consumers (60%) say they haven’t completed an intended purchase as a result of a poor customer service experience, costing businesses $83 billion in lost sales. It takes 12 positive customer experience experiences to negate the effects of that single poor customer service experience. And 52% of customers say they have switched companies over the past 12 months because of poor customer service.
Even a single disengaged employee is costing your business money in multiple ways. And chances are, unless you’re working with a small team, there’s more than one disengaged person working with you.
It’s important to keep an eye on engagement because it’s possible an employee who was once engaged and becomes disengaged, can cause more damage to your company than a staff member who was never engaged at all.
How Engaged Employees Help Your Business
Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 204%. They’re productive. They help keep your customers happy. They share their ideas with you, which can help your company reach new levels of efficiency and profit.
Fostering Employee Engagement
If you’ve discovered your team isn’t as engaged as you’d hoped they would be, don’t panic. There are plenty of things you can do to try to bring those employees back to a higher level of engagement. Beware, however, that just as engagement didn’t decline overnight, you won’t be able to restore it overnight. Give it time, and remain consistent.
- Be transparent. Share crucial company information, to prevent employees from jumping to their own conclusions. Keep your team updated on financial performance, both long-term and short-term goals, and let them know what it means for them and their jobs. Involving them in this aspect of your company helps them feel more connected to the company.
- Keep high-level employees visible and accessible to others. Employees shouldn’t only be able to talk to each other and their direct manager. All high-level employees should be visible throughout the company. If an employee wants to speak to the CEO about an idea he has to save money or promote the business, he shouldn’t have to go through a lot of obstacles to be able to arrange a meeting.
- Start at the top and let it trickle down. Work to make sure the employees at the top are engaged. It will trickle down to the people their managing, and so on. Build that strong, transparent bond with the people you’re managing, and the trend will catch on.
- Thank your employees. Taking the time to thank your team for their hard work and recognize their accomplishments can do a great deal in keeping your team engaged. When someone feels valued and appreciated, it helps them build an emotional connection to the company, and you as their management.
- Build genuine relationships.
- Remain flexible. Yes, you should hold your employees accountable for their performance, but it’s also important to give them the flexibility they need. No one likes a micromanager, and how are you supposed to get things done yourself if you’re busy looking over what everyone else is doing all the time? Consider giving the option to work from home, or take a personal day. As long as they get their work done, and they do it well, not much else should matter.
- Focus on behaviors and traits, rather than experience and education. Great experience can, but doesn’t always mean, a great employee. Focusing on the applicant’s behaviors and traits before anything else will help you see how they will fit into the company culture, and give you an idea of how the other employees will respond to the new hire. Those that are most likely to be engaged workers will show enthusiasm and excitement during the interview. They are also personable, and not afraid to speak up. Sure, a resume will tell you about their experience, but those aren’t necessarily all true.
- Welcome and implement their input. Make sure to actively seek feedback from everyone. Institute an open-door policy so it’s easy for everyone to come to you. Some team members may not be comfortable reaching out to you to share their thoughts and feelings, so make sure you reach out to them directly to make sure they’re feeling heard.
- Promote from within. If your staff thinks they are stuck in the same position and unable to advance their career, they’ll lose their motivation to do well for you. Whenever possible, promote form within to demonstrate that you are committed to helping your staff climb the ranks. They’ll work harder for you. Of course, the possibility remains that you’ll need to hire outsiders from time to time to fill vacancies, but doing what you can to promote someone who already works for you can greatly boost employee morale.
- Make sure they’re taking breaks. Promote good work/life balance. No matter what needs to be done, and how long it will take, make sure your team is taking at least one 15-minute break other than their lunch break during an eight hours shift. Encourage people getting up and away from their desks during lunch. Encourage them to stop answering company email outside of their normal working hours, and especially when on vacation. Working too much or too often can lead to stress, which leads to burn out, which leads to disengagement. Managing work and life is hard – but there is a lot you can do as the employer to discourage, and even prevent it.
- Use meetings sparingly. Many businesses seem to do nothing but hold meetings. If your team is always in a meeting, they won’t be able to get anything done. If they can’t get things done anyway, it will be much easier for them to disengage. Keep them meetings to a minimum, short, and to the point, to get the best results.
- Get out of the office. Go have a brainstorming session at lunch away from the office. Go work outside. Sometimes feeling like you’re stuck in those same four walls at the time can cause stress and lead to burn out. Plus, brainstorming together helps everyone feel involved, and gives a chance to strengthen team building skills.
- Reward creativity. Let support staff know it’s okay to come up with new ideas and implement them. When they know this is okay, they’ll understand how much you value their opinion. But, be careful when using rewards as an incentive to do a good job. If you reward everything all the time, it’s easy for the team to get comfortable and expect a reward, thus becoming complacent about the quality of work they’re doing.
- Encourage health and wellness. No matter your profession, investing in keeping yourself and your team healthy is a good idea. Stress is bad for mental and physical health, so it pays to do what you can to keep everyone as healthy as possible. It doesn’t have to be a difficult task- it can be as simple as offering a free gym membership, or something like bringing massage therapists to the office once a week or once a month. Keep the break room stocked with healthy snacks. Every little bit helps.
- Encourage team members to get to know one another better. Play games. Host parties and events outside of work, that take place somewhere other than the office. Plan a happy hour at the end of the week to let everyone relax and unwind.
Engagement is a Process
Start small and work gradually toward higher engagement. Watch for changes in how the employees interact with you, and one another. When you bring on new staff, either to replace someone who quits or gets promoted, or to expand operations to keep the current staff from being overworked, start the engagement process from day one.
Always keep the lines of communication open with your team, and encourage your management staff to do the same. Think before you invest in an employ engagement program. Get feedback from everyone and implement the changes you think will be most effective based on how they feel.
Do you feel your employees are engaged working with you? Share your experiences with me.
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